San Diego’s Areas of Special Biological Significance

garibaldiWhile clean water is a necessary component of healthy oceans, water quality is constantly under attack from a variety of pollution sources, including discharge of wastewater and pollutants, litter and stormwater runoff.

In an effort to help protect our oceans and maintain natural water quality within some of the most pristine and biologically unique sections of California’s coast, the state created Areas of Special Biological Significance (ASBS) in the 1970s. Today, there are 34 such areas – sometimes referred to as State Water Quality Protection Areas – in California. The La Jolla shores/ Scripps area is home to two ASBS due to its unique marine diversity and opportunity for public use and research.

Following establishment of these areas, in 1983, the State Water Board's Ocean Plan officially prohibited all polluted runoff and discharges into ASBS. Yet despite the importance of clean water and these legislative regulations, water pollution in its many forms continues to plague California’s waters.

San Diego's Areas of Special Biological Significance

Here in San Diego, Coastkeeper has a unique partnership with Scripps Institution of Oceanography/UCSD and the City of San Diego to address threats to the water quality we strive to improve and maintain. 

Projects include incorporating low impact development techniques into constructed surfaces – such as parking lots, sidewalks and rooftops – along the La Jolla shores area and Scripps Institution of Oceanography and University California, San Diego campuses. Another primary component to achieving higher water quality in ASBS is community participation. Everyone can preserve and improve the health of the watersheds that they live, work and play in. From fixing broken sprinklers, to participating in a beach cleanup or water quality monitoring, we can all help prevent further degradation of our precious water resources.

Designating these areas as ASBS offers a tremendous opportunity to preserve the fantastic array of marine life and safeguard some of the world’s most beautiful coastal areas.

 Blog: What is an ASBS?

 Blog: How can I play in the ASBS?

 Protecting ASBS: What is an ASBS?  Diving and Snokeling the ASBS
 Swimming Pools to Tide Pools: Your Neighborhood and ASBS Pollution  The Best Thing About San Diego
 Translating State Policy Into Action on the Ground (or in the Ocean)  Now You Sea Me, Now You Don't
Can Kayaking in La Jolla Keep Our Water Clean?  Surf the ASBS
Celebrating Low Impact Development on World Oceans Day  Snorkel with the Leopard Sharks in La Jolla Shores
For June Gloom: It's a Balloon Gloom at La Jolla Shores Cleanups  
Saving the Ocean One Raindrop at a Time  
It Takes a Village to Protect a Watershed  
Locals Only - Native Plant Gardening to Protect our Surf Breaks  
What's so Great About San Diego Anyway?  

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Fishable Facts

  • Kelp forests play home to more than 700 species of marine creatures.
  • Many factors including pollution, climate change, and over-fishing contribute to kelp forest decline, and their collective impact is far greater than any individual stressor.
  • Research has shown that grazing by inflated sea urchins populations damaged kelp forests and slowed recovery in the '50s to '70s off Point Loma. Sea otters, lobster, and sheephead fish are important predators, keeping urchin populations in check.
  • Many fish off California's coast are in such decline that some species will take 50-80 years to recover to healthy levels.
  • La Jolla's lush kelp forest is like a stand of underwater redwoods – it provides food and shelter for hundreds of species, from tiny invertebrates to fish, mammals and birds.
  • Since 1990, revenues from commercial fishing have declined by more than half and the number of fishing boats calling at California ports has declined by nearly three-quarters.
  • Average size across a wide range of West Coast fish is down by half from 20 years ago.
  • A 40-cm bocaccio rockfish produces an average of just over 200,000 eggs per year, whereas an 80-cm fish at double the length produces nearly 10 times as many eggs (2 million)!
  • Nearly 80 percent of marine debris comes from land-based sources.
  • Regardless of their size, plastic pollution bits are not digestible by any creature.
  • More than 60 percent of all marine debris is plastic.
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